Changing a Motorcycle Wheel Bearing
Motorcycle wheel bearings should be checked on a regular basis as part of general maintenance.
STEP 1. Place the bike on a stand and check the wheels spin freely. For the rear wheel if the chain is tensioned and lubricated correctly, and the sprockets aren't worn in any way, using one hand to rest on the swingarm all there should be is a smooth rumble of chain over the sprocket teeth.
STEP 2. Grasp the top and bottom of the tyre from the side and try to rock the wheel backwards and forwards. Don't forget the bike should be steady on the stand and not moving around so if need be someone should hold it steady. Turn the wheel 90 degrees and do the same again and repeat until a full revolution.
STEP 3. What you are looking for is play in the bearings and this will be felt as a slight movement of the wheel or large movement if the bearings are seriously beyond use. There will maybe even be a clunking noise. You should check the wheel spindle isn't incorrectly tightened as this may lead to similar problems, but if it is okay it indicates one or more of the bearings is worn. As a rule of good practice it is sensible to replace all the bearings.
STEP 4. To replace the bearings the wheel should be removed in the usual way, and for the rear wheel pull out the sprocket carrier and any cushdrive rubbers if applicable. If the bike has a carrier this will also have a bearing which will need checking. You should check if it turns freely or if there is any play in the inner race. There may even be other signs of wear and deterioration such as pitting or discolouration.
STEP 5. Having removed the wheel lay it flat supporting the rim on wood blocks to avoid damage. Inside the hub there is a tubular spacer to stop the bearings distorting as the spindle is tightened. Various bikes have various designs, but the spacer should be knocked it off centre by tapping it with a drift.
STEP 6. With the spacer slightly out of line with the bearings means that when you go to tap each bearing out using a long drift from the opposite side, you can get contact with the outer race of the bearing. Some hubs even have indents to help you do this. If you can't place the drift against the inner race and start to tap the bearing free.
STEP 7. When the bearing starts to move, tap it equally around the circumference to ensure it doesn't twist within the hub and it comes out easily and smoothly. Having got one side out, turn the wheel over and remove the other bearing in the same way. Don't worry if the spacer tube falls out.
STEP 8. Be careful to note which bearing comes from which side as sometimes they are different. Check the designation of the bearing for ordering if you haven't already done so. See our pages on find the correct bearing number.
STEP 9. To replace the bearings align the new one in its seat in the hub and using the old bearing, or an old socket on top of the new bearing, tap the new bearing into place. Using the old bearing or socket will help prevent damage. Don't be over vigorous with the tapping or damage will be caused.
STEP 10. Having done one side turn the wheel over, replace the inner spacer tube and fit the second new bearing in the same way.
STEP 11. Check that the spacer tube is aligned co-axially with the bearings, in order the spindle can pass through it freely. If it is off centre it will need tapping into position, i.e. step 5 above in reverse. Both bearings should just grip the spacer so that it turns with the inner races. A little patience will get the alignment/position correct.
STEP 12. Refit the cushdrive rubbers (if applicable) and the sprocket carrier, not having forgotten to replace the new bearing, together with any spacers (if applicable), and refit the wheel. Torque up the wheel spindle nut.
Take your time - don't try to rush the job
Make a note of what comes from where and how - when it comes to refitting this may be valuable
Only use quality branded bearings
If the bearings are difficult to fit in step 9 above, put them in a polythene bag, and put them in the freezer and then try fitting them
Last Updated on 13/4/2006
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